The best way to share what is great about your school? Use your students!

Simon Hepburn, of Marketing Advice for Schools, discusses why you should develop a social media crew at your school 

In my school days one of my favourite TV programmes was Press Gang – the story of a school newspaper. It made making a school newspaper glamorous and no doubt inspired many of my generation to become journalists (perhaps no surprise as it was written by ex-teacher Steven Moffat who moved on to create Sherlock!

Visiting schools today there is much that has changed and improved since the 90s’, but I’ve also noticed that there are far fewer students involved in creating stories about their schools than there used to be. And that surprises me for two reasons.  

  • Firstly, because many more students will go onto careers that require a wide range of media-related skills such as writing scripts for video, interviewing, presenting, shooting and editing video and sharing content online.  
  • Secondly, because schools are in severe need of content to promote themselves to increase admissions, raise extra funds or just show the local community the positive things they do every day – and students have the time, ability and insight to do this. 

Create a ‘student media crew’ (your own ‘Press Gang’) today with a focus on video rather than print and you can set up your own TV channel or supply great videos for an existing school website or social media. The only downside is an initial investment of time and perhaps some new equipment (although schools often have a lot of relevant IT kit!) 

Below we look at the key stages in the process – and show the outcomes already achieved by one school. 

How to set up your crew: 

  1. Find the right team – you will need motivated students as well as staff who can inspire them as well as sensitively monitoring what they produce! To recruit the students, I’d suggest asking around the staff room and inviting individuals as well as putting up posters around the school. The team needs to be balanced between those creating content (producers, writers), appearing on screen (interviewers and presenters) and managing the technical side of the process (recording, editing) – a team of eight is probably the ideal initial number. 
  1. Find the right equipment – you will need a green screen (or other suitable background), at least one video camera (phones and tablets are good enough to start with but you might want to move up quickly!), a good microphone and editing software (you can start with free products such as iMovie). Over time you can invest in lights, live broadcasting tools and much more!  
  1. Train your crew – while your students may have a lot of experience with video, you should be aiming for higher quality than a typical TikTok. You may be able to find suitable trainers in your school or a school you feed students into, or you could use experts such as Just Teach (see the case study below).  
  1. Research your stories – it’s a good idea to focus on an initial big event such as a student production, science fair or music festival. This gives a range of people to interview over a long period of time. One recent example is the Motorsport School Team Challenge – this video was filmed by students and gives their impression of an important event –  
  1. Check safeguarding – in a school you need to be very careful about what you share externally. It’s important to make sure that all those featured have permission to appear in promotional videos, and that nothing is shared with the outside world without being checked by members of staff.  
  2. Share your content – there are many ways to share your creations with the wider world. The easiest initial way is to add videos to your school website, assuming you are able to do this in-house. An alternative is to share them using social media – perhaps using a scheduling tool such as ContentCal – the big advantage of this tool is that it has built-in permission management so all content can be approved before it is sent. Or you can set up a YouTube-based TV station!  
  1. Sustaining your crew – once you’ve succeeded with an initial event, it’s time to bring the whole school on board. Ask other members of staff and students to share their ideas and create a practical story calendar based around the school’s key messages and events.  
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